On winter solstice, an ode to (mostly artificial) light

Photo essay: Appreciating the ways Anchorage glows during the week of the year with the least daylight.

Here’s a positive angle on the shortest daylight day of the year: Things are looking up. The potential for a brighter future couldn’t be greater.

But for now, we deal with the dark. In Anchorage, the winter solstice sun rises at 10:13 a.m. and sets at 3:41 p.m. for a whopping 5 hours, 27 minutes and 44 seconds in which the sun is above the horizon. It might be tough to tell when it rises in the south and sets in another part of the south, due to cloud cover that has seemed endless in 2023. And we’re not so daylight-poor compared to many in our Arctic state: Polar night will continue in Utqiagvik until Jan. 23.

Sure, winter sunlight can be stunning here, giving contrast to stark white pinks and the blue sky. But more often, night gives way to dim cyan, then a slightly less dim cyan. It can be a challenging time for many. Gloom can settle into a person’s mood, too, like haze that obscures the tops of office buildings. One might be suspicious of individuals who claim not to be bothered at all. Are they lying or bragging?

This week I set out to photograph the lack of light, inasmuch as it’s possible to capture what isn’t much there, to answer a question without words: What is the dark of winter like here? I leaned on the artificial light that supplants the natural in Alaska’s biggest city — the neon glow on the slippery roadways, over-the-top holiday displays, the walkers and skiers undeterred, and sparkles that cut through the fog.

On Friday, Anchorage will gain three deserved seconds of daylight. Use it wisely. We have much to anticipate. Happy winter solstice.

[6 ways to celebrate winter solstice in Anchorage]

Marc Lester

Marc Lester is a multimedia journalist for Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at mlester@adn.com.